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Record Collection 4 Sale
August 19, 2010 2:44 PM   Subscribe

88-year old selling 400k record collection

it's been called the World's largest private catalog of music, and now Murray Gershenz is selling his record collection/business to pursue his acting career.
posted by msconduct (40 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
He's 88 and he's dropping a lifelong hobby to pursue a new career. My new hero!
posted by chavenet at 2:49 PM on August 19, 2010


Neat.

I hope he lets Joe Bussard scrounge through them first.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:50 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


What a sell out.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 2:50 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Further evidence that record collecting is not a hobby- it is a neurosis. My wife & children have imposed upon me a "one-in-one-out" policy regarding LPs (I am still allowed to bring home 78s I think) in order to avoid a Gershenz sort of scenario in the future.
posted by squalor at 2:51 PM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Did you get the pears?
posted by mrgrimm at 2:53 PM on August 19, 2010 [15 favorites]


He said he hoped to find a museum or college willing to acquire his $3-million trove.

and:

"Selling individual records isn't paying the rent," Gershenz said. "I've found about five people with an interest in the collection. But they want me to give it to them. I really can't afford to do that. This is my life's work."

Someone needs to teach Mr. Gershenz about value vs. worth.

Something is only worth what you can get someone to pay for it no matter how much you value it.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:55 PM on August 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


I ... I do not understand.
"The collection is worth $3 [million] to $4 million, I'd guess. But a half million will allow me to breathe easier," Greshenz said. "I'm not setting a deadline, but my ability to pay the rent will determine it. I can go another couple of months. I don't want this collection to be taken over by trash bins."
It's sold for a good amount of money (but only a $1.25 a record), or ... it's trash? Hire a few nice folks to help him set up an eBay account, play off of the media interest, and sell it off one at a time or in lots. Or, have a Going Out Of Business sale, price every record at $5 and no haggling, and you've got $2 million, minus whatever tax, which you eat to make the whole process go smoothly.

Or JUST GIVE IT AWAY, and it's still not thrown in the trash! IT'S PERFECTLY GOOD MUSIC! I understand he wants the collection to remain a collection, but this all or nothing makes me really sad.

Not related: the profile picture makes me think of Geri (animated, not the real man in the 2nd half of the linked video).
posted by filthy light thief at 2:59 PM on August 19, 2010


It's a shame he doesn't see himself as being in the position to just donate it to a museum. I understand the need to pay the rent, but damn, it would suck if all these just end up being dumped. What would the difference be in his pocketbook if he finds a museum to take them for free and throwing them away, anyway?
posted by hippybear at 2:59 PM on August 19, 2010


Two notes: 1) there is a disconnect between the first and second link. The first says 400,000 records, the second says 1,200,000; 2) in 2008, the "World's Greatest Music Collection" (internet archived site) of 3 million records and 300,000 Compact Discs was put on sale on eBay (which fell through due to a potential case of identity theft. Paul Mawhinney's collection was covered twice, previously, and the earlier post had an interesting note on Paul Mawhinney's "great" collection.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:12 PM on August 19, 2010


What would the difference be in his pocketbook if he finds a museum to take them for free and throwing them away, anyway?

The difference is, if he donates them to a museum, he wouldn't be punishing all those cheap people who refused to pay for them.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:13 PM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


filthy light thief: first link is from 2010, 2nd is from 2000. in the 2nd link, murray says, "I'm not exactly sure how many records I have," he says. "We're going to do an inventory soon." apparently they did the inventory.
posted by msconduct at 3:28 PM on August 19, 2010


You run into this from time to time buying antiques of any stripe, where the owner would rather see it destroyed than take "too little" for it.

I'm selling an antique machine right now and it's becoming clear that no one is really willing to pay me what I thought it surely must be worth, and I'm fairly good at valuing this sort of stuff in an unsentimental way. It doesn't feel awesome to have your time, monetary investment and "care" valued at zilch, that's for sure.
posted by maxwelton at 3:29 PM on August 19, 2010


I feel for him, but there are different kinds of collectors. I've only been doing it for about 30 years compared to his 70+, but it does tend to feel like a giant tumor you're carrying around. You're always servicing your collection - huge storage problems, money constantly going in, never coming out, efforts at preservation, and so on.

What took me decades of careful searching and more money than I care to remember, can now be duplicated in large part just by downloading stuff off-bittorrent for free. And I'm part of it - since some of the precious rare stuff that's long out of print, I've put on bittorrent myself. Because ultimately, for me, it's about the music. I wasn't doing it, to admire my collection during dark stormy nights, rubbing my hands and cackling with glee. I love the music. And I don't want it to be lost. I want others to experience the same joy. So, I thank the internet and the bittorrent protocol, because now, instead of just one physical copy sitting in one place, or moving from one owner to another, anyone can have access.

My advice would be to digitize the unique stuff, and sell everything for whatever he can get, or give away. In the end, it's about the music. But then again, there are different kinds of collectors.
posted by VikingSword at 3:45 PM on August 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Did he get inspiration from George Carlin?
posted by oonh at 3:48 PM on August 19, 2010


It doesn't feel awesome to have your time, monetary investment and "care" valued at zilch, that's for sure.

Unfortunately, things are only worth what people will pay for them at the end of the day. The saving grace, I guess, is time. Maybe someone will come along some day who's willing to pay. I see this when I watch those "Antique Roadshow" shows; the "expert" tells them their old teapot is worth $800. But the expert isn't going to buy it off them for $800. The expert isn't going to tell them where they can get $800 for it. If they put it on eBay they'd still probably only get 30 quid.
posted by Jimbob at 3:48 PM on August 19, 2010


Did you get the pears?

Oh my. You are absolutely right! Go Murray!
posted by ericb at 3:50 PM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


filthy light thief: "I ... I do not understand.
"The collection is worth $3 [million] to $4 million, I'd guess. But a half million will allow me to breathe easier," Greshenz said. "I'm not setting a deadline, but my ability to pay the rent will determine it. I can go another couple of months. I don't want this collection to be taken over by trash bins."
It's sold for a good amount of money (but only a $1.25 a record), or ... it's trash? Hire a few nice folks to help him set up an eBay account, play off of the media interest, and sell it off one at a time or in lots. Or, have a Going Out Of Business sale, price every record at $5 and no haggling, and you've got $2 million, minus whatever tax, which you eat to make the whole process go smoothly.

Or JUST GIVE IT AWAY, and it's still not thrown in the trash! IT'S PERFECTLY GOOD MUSIC! I understand he wants the collection to remain a collection, but this all or nothing makes me really sad.

Not related: the profile picture makes me think of Geri (animated, not the real man in the 2nd half of the linked video).
"

He sounds like a smart dude and a really savvy businessman from the article. I wouldn't be surprised if that reaction is exactly what that particular option is intended to engender; scare the right music lover with half a million, and he's done for the day. After spending his entire life collecting and immersing himself in those records, even rebuilding after the 94 quake broke 20,000 of them, there's no way he's tossing them in dumpster(s).
posted by lazaruslong at 4:08 PM on August 19, 2010


I had a friend who'd worked for Rolling Stone from Day 1. He had a huge record collection, and yet, no museum or archive would take them--no place to store the records safely, no $$ to digitize them (even the Grammy museum doesn't have a vast record archive, nor does the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, nor the Country Music Hall of Fame.)
So when he turned, 60, he told everyone to come to his birthday party and take the stuff away. We went for the roots music and hard rock.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:10 PM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm not a record collector, but I have a pretty big comic book collection, and I see this kind of thing (albeit on a smaller scale) just searching for comics locally and online all the time. People amass a collection with the expectation it'll make them rich or even that they'll be able to get their money out of it whenever they want. It just isn't so. For every person that finds a Batman #1 wedged in a dresser or an Action Comics #1 in their basement, there are 100,000 people who bought comics off the rack, ended up with a collection, then discovered they will never, ever get cover price for them.

The problem with having a big collection like this is that you can't easily turn it into cash. Sure, the "book value" might be three or four million dollars, and eBay makes it a lot easier, but with a collection that size, you have to invest hundreds or thousands of hours of labor to get that money out of it by selling individual pieces; marketing the collection, sorting, photographing, describing, listing, collecting payment, packing, shipping, and keeping track of it all. This is why guide prices are pretty much bullshit. The guide will say this record or this comic sells for this price, but what the guide doesn't say is where and when the item sold for that amount, what the dealer spent in labor, storage and marketing cost to get that amount out of it, and how long he dragged it around in his inventory until he found someone willing to pay that price.

The other issue is that the bigger the collection, the more limited your potential pool of buyers if you insist on selling it as a block. There just aren't that many people capable of laying out that kind of money all at once. The ones that have that kind of money and collect whatever you're selling probably already have substantial collections themselves and won't be interested in buying 400,000 records to fill in the holes, because they'll then have to go through the huge pain in the ass of trying to sell the remainders individually.

My opinion is that he should part the collection out, and either have a huge live, in-person auction and advertise the hell out of it in collector mags and online, or pull all the records worth more than a set amount ($50? $100?) and pay someone to list them on eBay, then take the remaining records and organize them and sell them in bulk lots. It's just foolish to insist on keeping them together and not get anything out of them.
posted by MegoSteve at 5:06 PM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't get impressed by the sheer volume of records anymore. I've looked in enough places and spent dozens of hours coming through 78s just trying to find something decent, and come out with nothing most times. It seems like you come across 1000 waltz/classical records, 100 crooner/pop country records, 5 folk, and 1 decentish blues, in that ratio. Jazz is in there somewhere, but rare as well. A lot of the good stuff is gone, which is of no surprise. For as much as there's some rare, valuable stuff there, there's got to be an incredible amount of, well, garbage.
posted by l2p at 5:13 PM on August 19, 2010


filthy light thief: "the earlier post had an interesting note on Paul Mawhinney's "great" collection."

I'm firmly convinced that as a record collection gets larger it has more garbage in it. This goes (at least) doubly true for collections that have backstopped record stores. These people spend years and years buying huge Mantovani and Laura Nyro stacks from people because they have one or two decent Rolling Stones albums in there. Or a Bruce Springsteen bootleg, or something. These are the records he is left with after the record store is mostly picked over. I would guess that a collection of 100K would be one-third OK, one-third garbage and (at least) a third extra copies of records that are in the OK group.

In 400K records, I'll bet that he has at least 100 copies of Rod McKuen's "The Sea." Gosh, where do I sign up?!
posted by rhizome at 5:34 PM on August 19, 2010


> What would the difference be in his pocketbook if he finds a museum to take them for free and throwing them away, anyway?

Ever see those furniture store ads where they say that if they can't sell an item to you for the price another store asks, they'll give it to you instead?
posted by ardgedee at 6:11 PM on August 19, 2010


Problem is it's probably not a unique collection. May be the largest private collection, but the ARChive of Contemporary Music, now part of the Columbia University library, has 1.6 million discs, almost all popular music.

Now that is a singular collection.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:14 PM on August 19, 2010


Also, the usual way this works is a donor buys the collection for a university or museum, so the "gift" is brokered. (with a fat tax deduction to boot)

That's the guy who needs to step forward here.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:16 PM on August 19, 2010


One of the things little mentioned here is that for an institution to purchase a collection of this size, they have to have money lined up to move, house, and care for it. Buying a building full of records would require not only the cash this guy is dreaming of, but an equal if not substantially larger monetary commitment to care for it. Even if someone accepted it for "free" they are looking at a professional salary (or an equal dedication in time), a few thousand square feet of storage, and a few trucks worth of specialized moving services - just to take possession, not to mention cataloging and digitizing (which sure as hell ain't cheap). Even a spacious, well funded and staffed archive can't just simply absorb something like this. Not to mention that spacious, well funded and well staffed archives just don't exist.
posted by gyusan at 7:21 PM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


I really am astounded at all the niggling observances of how this 88 YEAR OLD MAN isn't being savvy/charitable enough. This geezer is really cool. Just to be walking and talking at his age is impressive, never mind taking up a new profession. He should do this, he should do that...Obviously, his son is not giving him the kind of help he apparently (according to posters here) needs, but good on the old man for being an interesting and active person.

I, for one, think he's bluffing about dumping them.
posted by Roachbeard at 7:23 PM on August 19, 2010


Why the hell would one even want to take it for free? Just moving and storage of this stuff will run in thousands of dollars. And I can't even imagine the amount of time it would take to go through all this stuff just to see what's there. Dude just doesn't realize he's in 99.999%ile of whatever mental problem he's got.
posted by c13 at 7:24 PM on August 19, 2010


I, for one, think he's bluffing about dumping them.

He is 88. Whatever he does with them, he'd better get on it.
posted by c13 at 7:29 PM on August 19, 2010


record collecting is not a hobby- it is a neurosis.

Unless you're Joel Whitburn. Which is what I'd be planning on if Murray was my uncle!
posted by Twang at 7:35 PM on August 19, 2010


For what it's worth, I ran across a record store in my area about six years ago that was located in the middle of a suburban industrial park because they had a collection of, we were told, around one million records, and needed the warehouse to store them all. I don't know if there were actually one million, but hey, it was a warehouse, and it was pretty fucking full.

My friends and I shopped there once, and while I found some OK stuff, most of the warehouse was just duplicates of what they had in the front.

When we returned a few months later to browse again, there was a sign on the door stating that they had sold their entire lot, lock, stock, and barrel...to a buyer in Japan. Selling a million records is not out of the question.
posted by hafehd at 8:25 PM on August 19, 2010


These people spend years and years buying huge Mantovani and Laura Nyro stacks from people because they have one or two decent Rolling Stones albums in there.

Uh, don't diss Laura Nyro.
posted by ovvl at 8:53 PM on August 19, 2010


I know who she is and her records are all over the fucking place. Oh, do you mean because she's dead? The saying actually goes, "don't speak ill of the recently dead."
posted by rhizome at 12:36 AM on August 20, 2010


John Peel#s record collection was unique - I know this because there were things played on his show that were small press, unavailable, never re-issued, and I know THAT because of years spent trying to track some of those down. I believe they were left to the British Museum in the end.
posted by mippy at 2:08 AM on August 20, 2010


I bet it's all Whipped Cream & Other Delights and Sing Along With Mitch.
posted by NoMich at 4:43 AM on August 20, 2010


I wonder what the federal government will spend five million dollars on today that could go to the LOC instead to buy this and archive it?
posted by timsteil at 5:35 AM on August 20, 2010


NoMich, that was my first thought.

I used to work at a used record and comic book store, and this article reminded me of the hundreds of customers I met who couldn't understand why we offered ten cents each for most of their favorite old records and back issues. I totally understood why they got angry and hurt, but their decades-long love of records and comic books just wasn't the accidental investment they hoped it was.

Even the old 78s, as cool as they are, didn't get them much money, because there wasn't a market and they were too brittle to survive the constant shelf-rummaging of our shoppers.

One of my coworkers wanted to wallpaper the bathrooms with our pile of copies of Whipped Cream and Other Delights.
posted by Toothless Willy at 8:10 AM on August 20, 2010


Thank you, VikingSword!
posted by mrgrimm at 10:11 AM on August 20, 2010


When it comes to record collecting, it's about quality, not quantity. A million plus records means more crap than you can possibly imagine.
posted by bonefish at 12:52 PM on August 20, 2010


I think I've got three copies of Rod McKuen's The Sea. The first because I thought it was awesome. The second because i got scared I'd burn the grooves on the first. The third because I found a McKuen box set. The whole San Sebastian Strings / Rod McKuen schtick is probably the unintentionally funniest stuff I've ever listened to...and I collect a lot of that genre.

But, yeah, probably more than a few copies of Sing Along with Mitch, Ferlin Husky, and similar treacle.
posted by Fezboy! at 2:21 PM on August 20, 2010


I agree with VikingSword's approach.
I ovecome a record obsession in part by digitizing all of the rare records I owned and putting them online. Doing that allowed me to "set them free", in some respects.

I gathered all of my favourites to hold on to for posterity (about a crate worth) and sold off ALL of the rest. I keep the favourites hanging on my walls in PVC sheets as wallpaper.

The prevalance of awesome people digitizing their extremely rare OOP music collections and putting them on blogs has done a huge amount of curb collecting instincts, and I am happy to humbly continue that effort..
Mind you, it is increasing my need for extra hard drives...
posted by Theta States at 7:44 AM on August 23, 2010


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